MASERU – The Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) has paid homage to former Minister of Sport, ‘Mathabiso Lepono, for her work in sports.
The honorary celebration was held at Lepono’s home in Ha Ramokoatsi, Mafeteng, on Monday.
Lepono, who is now 80 years old, was a long-time minister of gender, youth, and sports under former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili led government.
After an illustrious career, she retired in 2012 and LEFA president Advocate Salemane Phafane said after her departure the association has not felt the warmth it felt under her leadership.
Lepono’s name is certainly synonymous with the country’s politics and sport.
The Thibella native first joined cabinet in 1999 when she was appointed as the minister of environment, gender, and youth affairs and, in 2002, she shifted to the ministry of gender, youth, and sports.
While serving as gender minister, Lepono oversaw the passage of the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act of 2006 which removed men’s marital power over their wives and gave married women more rights.
She also headed the implementation of the 2003 Sexual Offences Act which, among other provisions, recognised marital rape as a crime.
By 2011, Lepono was one of seven women ministers in the cabinet, alongside ‘Mamphono Khaketla, Mannete Ramali, Maphoka Motoboli, Mphu Keneiloe Ramatlapeng, Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa, and Pontso Suzan Matumelo Sekatle.
As he honoured Lepono, Phafane said LEFA felt it would be irresponsible to overlook what the former minister has done for sports in Lesotho, especially football.
It was under her leadership that the national stadium, Setsoto, and the Leshoboro Stadium in Mafeteng were revamped.
The Rapokolana High Altitude Sports Training Centre located on the outskirts of Maseru was also Lepono’s brainchild. The M55 million sports facility was built by the government in 2005 to develop local athletes.
The facility comprises a state-of the-art gymnasium, indoor swimming pool, football pitch, running-track as well as netball and tennis courts, among its amenities.
“We have not had the warmth we had under your leadership, we have not felt the love we had during your time,” Phafane said to Lepono.
“There has not been one (minister) to match or even come close to what Mme ‘Malepono did as minister. The (Setsoto) stadium we have now was built (by her), it was her vision for us as a country to have a stadium. She built Leshoboro as well. Tell me which stadium was built by another minister besides the two?” he said.
Phafane said unfortunately the Rapokolana centre, along with several other of Lepono’s ideas, has now been turned into a white elephant.
Phafane said LEFA will not honour any other minister until they have made their mark.
“Rapokolana was her idea and it started during her time, there is no minister that can stand here and be proud about Rapokolana except her. It was her wish for football to get the benefit of training there, (but) I am not sure whether that will happen. We know nothing and there are no signs that we will benefit anything there,” Phafane said.
The LEFA president said football no longer has a home in Lesotho because the national team, Likuena, now play their games in Johannesburg, South Africa, because Setsoto is banned by Africa’s football governing body, CAF, for being below the required international standards.
The time to renovate the stadium came and passed. Even the stadium’s artificial turf is no longer up to standard because the sports ministry refused to let LEFA maintain it, Phafane said.
LEFA no longer receives a subvention from the ministry and Phafane said the last time they received it was back in 2012 which was the same time Lepono retired.
Phafane said the money from parliament ends up at the sports ministry and the allowances that players get come from the association itself. The government has all but abandoned its responsibility to the national teams.
“You also took responsibility for the national teams, the last time we received a subvention was in 2012,” Phafane said in reference to Lepono.
“I dare the LSRC (Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission) president to say we are not telling the truth; we don’t get (a subvention). After you left, they started singing a new song that there is no money,” he said.
“The ministry and their workers point fingers when the players don’t do well, shame on them. If I was them, I would hide my finger knowing I did nothing for the team,” he said.
The association gifted Lepono with a trophy, three footballs and a brand new Likuena kit. Accepting the presents, the former minister said it hurts to see Setsoto in the state it is in now, as well as many other projects that she started.
Lepono said she did not think anyone would notice the things she did while she was in office.
She thanked LEFA and proclaimed her love for sport.
“I don’t know what to say, thank you so much,” Lepono said.
“When we were doing these things, we didn’t realise that there were people seeing them. I love football. I love all sports because there is nothing that brings people together like football. Football comes first, people love it, they come together,” she added.
“This is a big thing you have done for me; I thank you,” Lepono said.
Lepono said when she built Setsoto, her ministry had no money but they were willing to make it happen.
“I am not here to criticise anyone but we built Setsoto with tears,” Lepono said.
“Ntate Mosisili was not playing with me, I fought tooth and nail and I prayed that even though there was no money, God would give me money. There was no money given to build the grounds, but
I prayed we would build them, it was unfortunate that I left,” she said.
Lepono said the Rapokolana centre has a football ground which was meant to benefit football but the centre, like Setsoto, has become the white elephant. The centre was also built to take advantage of the country’s high altitude but it is of no use to Lesotho’s athletes at present time.
“This country is not going anywhere if you build a ground it turns into a white elephant,” Lepono said.
“When a new person arrives, they draw up their own priorities, they don’t say: let’s finish the ongoing projects.”
Rabale eyes Champions League glory
Lesotho women’s team captain Boitumelo Rabale has her eyes on winning her second CAF Women’s Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns as the tournament gets underway this weekend.
The third edition of the prestigious women’s club football is scheduled for Ivory Coast from November 5-19, where eight clubs will battle it out to be crowned Queens of the continent.
“Queen”, as the Lesotho star is commonly known, was part of the Sundowns squad that was crowned champions of the inaugural edition of the tournament held in Egypt two years ago, becoming the first player from the Mountain Kingdom to taste Champions League success.
She has become one of the key players in Jerry Tshabalala’s squad having walked away with the Hollywoodbets Player of the Season in the previous campaign and currently leads the goal-scoring charts with 21 goals.
“It was exciting to win the CAF Women’s Champions League with Sundowns two years ago and in the process becoming the first player from Lesotho to do so,” Rabale said.
“I felt very lucky and honoured to make history. It gave me confidence to continue working hard and strive for more success with the club”
Sundowns head to the tournament as regional champions after clinching the COSAFA qualifiers to qualify for the continental showpiece, where they will kickstart their campaign against Tanzania’s JKT Queens on Sunday.
Rabale admitted that memories of losing the last final to AS FAR still haunts them, but they head to Ivory Coast a better team than in the last tournament.
“We learnt the hard way when we lost in the final to AS FAR and we come back a better team having rectified our mistakes.
“It’s our dream to conquer the continent again and I have no doubt that we have what it takes to get our second star in Ivory Coast.
“It will be very good to add the second CAF Champions League medal to my trophy cabinet,” she said.
The 27-year-old has been prolific for Sundowns this campaign having scored nine goals in her last five matches to take her tally for this campaign to 21 goals.
Sundowns are in Group A alongside tournament hosts, Athletico Abidjan, Sporting Casablanca of Morocco, as well as Tanzania’s JKT Queen.
Since joining Sundowns in 2021, Rabale has won the Hollywoodbets Super League twice, the COSAFA Zonal qualifiers twice as well as the CAF Women’s Champions League and is the reigning Hollywoodbets Player of the season.
Red Skins fail to raise funds for championship
Lesotho volleyball giants Red Skins have failed to raise funds for the 2023 Zone 6 Senior Indoor Volleyball Club Championship they are set to host in December.
Red Skins will host the competition together with four other local volleyball clubs – Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lesotho Mounted Police Station (LMPS) and Rivers – and the tournament is expected to start on December 7 and end 10 days later.
Without any funds or sponsors coming in, Red Skins will have to foot the bill from their pockets for the tournament which will see teams from 10 countries converge on Maseru.
Among the participating nations, Botswana is expected to bring the biggest contingent with 12 teams, with Zambia following closely behind with nine teams while Zimbabwe is set to be represented by six teams.
Two weeks ago, Red Skins participated in the Elite Cup in Gauteng, South Africa, which was hosted by Aqua Darshan Volleyball.
Red Skins hoped to win the tournament and return home with a hefty jackpot but they only collected M5 000 which was won by the men’s team.
A gala dinner that Red Skins hosted last weekend also failed to generate income due to low attendance and speaking to thepost on Tuesday, the club’s vice-captain, Moleboheng Mofolo, said they will have to push on with what they have to host the tournament.
Mofolo said they no longer have time to come up with other means to raise funds.
“Tournaments will require us to find sponsorships and we do not have time now, we have to focus and train well,” Mofolo said.
“Our coach already told us to camp from this week but rain is our biggest challenge because we cannot continue with the training,” she added.
Mofolo said Red Skins are fortunate that participating teams are going to take care of their accommodation and catering. She said if Red Skins had to provide those services, they would not have been able to manage.
She pleaded with individuals, organisations and companies to help the team, whether it is by offering accommodation, food, or whatever little they may have.
Giants avoid each other in Top 4 clash
Women Super League (WSL) giants Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Ladies and Kick4Life Ladies have avoided each other in the WSL Top 4 knockout competition.
The two-day showpiece takes centre stage this weekend at Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena and it will see last season’s top four finishers in the league – LDF, Kick4Life, Lijabatho and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Ladies – go head-to-head for bragging rights.
The draw for the competition took place last Friday and the semi-finals will see LDF go up against Lijabatho while Kick4Life will take on LMPS Ladies.
Both semi-finals will be played on Saturday with the tournament culminating the following day.
Sunday’s proceedings will kick-off with a third-place playoff game to determine who walks away with the bronze medals before the final later in the day.
All four games over the two days will be streamed on the FIFA+ website and the WSL Top 4 will usher in a new sponsor this year.
In the past, the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) fully bankrolled the competition, however, Computer Business Solutions (CBS) has come on board with a sponsorship for the first time.
The competition’s prize monies have not been revealed because they are still being finalised, but, speaking at last Friday’s draw, LEFA’s associations secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi, said the relationship with CBS is one that sport should engage in.
Mohapi added his hopes that the relationship will be a long-term one.
“While others are busy at their thing, we should really grow ours so that when their distraction finally ends, they find us as united as we can be as the football community,” Mohapi said.
“(We should be) united by the efforts and inputs that emanate from the business community, especially when it is a truly Lesotho business entity because other (foreign entities) are here to take money,” he said.
Addressing CBS as the tournament’s sponsor, Mohapi said: “We are thankful as LEFA for your initiative; (we) hope you will be in this marriage quite long. We know we are just testing the waters but we have a lot that can entice you to stay longer, not only my command but the instruments that we have.”
Mohapi said LEFA’s dream is that in two years’ time all league matches will be streaming on the FIFA+ platform which was launched last April by football’s world governing body to increase exposure of men and women’s football around the globe.
Currently, only three grounds in the country have the structures for broadcasting; Bambatha as well as the grounds at LDF and Lesotho Correctional Service grounds, and all are in Maseru.
LEFA plans to add more grounds to the list with the DIFA facilities in Maputsoe and Mohale’s Hoek set to be the first to follow suit.
“All our women’s competitions, cup competitions and (Vodacom) Premier League matches that will be played in those stadia that have our infrastructure – we will be able to stream those games internationally,” Mohapi said.
“We have extended our footprint,” he added.
“We are now doing LDF – we have already put up the structure – then we are moving to Maputsoe and, hopefully, Mohale’s Hoek. It is our desire that in two years’ time we will hopefully cover all the matches and put them on the FIFA+ streaming platform.”
WSL Top 4 fixtures:
Lijabatho Ladies vs. LDF Ladies
LMPS Ladies vs. Kick4Life Ladies
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